White House and GOP have systematically dismantled public trust in government
By Grant Millin
December 20, 2005 6:00 am
“People should look at what we do, not who we are.” — U.S. Rep. Roy Blount (R-Mo.), House Majority Whip.
U.S. Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) pleaded guilty to graft shortly after Thanksgiving, tearfully admitting he took $2.4 million in bribes mostly from defense contractors. He could get up to 10 years in prison on federal bribery, fraud and tax evasion charges.
Apparently the Republican Party intends to save the nation by relinquishing the Capitol keys to defense contractors, big energy corporations and other corporate lobbyists.
According to the Washington Post, the Republican political machine currently holds twice the money in its accounts as Democrats. Is that because there are more Republican voters? Nope. Republican voters are a minority of the total registered voter population. So where does the money come from? The flow of cash in part derives from the Republican “K” Street Project organized by Rep. Tom DeLay, conservatives like Grover Norquist and other top figures of this now-discredited political party. K Street is where most of the corporate lobbyists in Washington are located.
One scandal involving Republican idealism involves a gambling industry lobbyist named Jack Abramoff and his ties to DeLay and other top Republicans. Former DeLay aide and Abramoff partner Michael Scanlon has pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges in the plot to cheat clients of millions and corruptly influence federal officials.
The Republican “Contract with America” has been breached.
Our Republican congressman, Rep. Charles Taylor, has taken money tied to Abramoff, and money from DeLay’s political action committee. Taylor is not shy about his relationship with lobbyists. His former chief of staff is now a General Electric lobbyist, according to The Hill. GE was one of Taylor’s top contributors in 2003 and 2004. GE is suspected of writing legislation for Taylor, particularly regarding attempts to delay New York’s Hudson River cleanup project, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal and Boston Globe.
The democratic franchise is a process of trust from the moment citizens cast their vote, and that public trust has been dying a death of a thousand cuts since Vietnam. While there are Democrats in Congress who fear the possibility of an “ethics war” — the functional application of House ethics rules by an active House ethics committee — it is the Republicans who have systematically injured the public trust most since President Bush arrived in Washington with his ethical chatter and unique leadership style. The situation in Washington is clearly about more than the scandal du jour, or who had sex with whom. This ethical collapse is an unequivocal emergency driving a crisis of faith shaking the foundations of our liberal democratic system. What were these “moral” Republicans doing all this time as they attempted to lead the nation?
In this district, questions surrounding another case have gone unresolved. Why did the Raleigh News & Observer question the manner in which the Department of Justice and the U.S. courts left so many unresolved issues involving our Taylor and the felony financial crime trials concerning his bank, Blue Ridge Savings Bank? In 2003, the News & Oberver’s editorial “Kid Gloves?” posed questions that remain in effect today. These and other publicized matters of corruption linked to Taylor seem to often involve cronyism, and clearly ethical incompetence. Another question is whether Taylor asked Congress early enough — if one believes the constitutional clause on favors from foreign powers has meaning — for permission to set up businesses in Russia dependent upon Taylor’s lobbying of that particularly shaky foreign power? (One business, Columbus Investment, remains unreported in Taylor’s financial disclosures as of last August, according to Asheville Citizen-Times and PoliticalMoneyLine.) Then finally, did Taylor misrepresent these various Russian activities to the public?
In 2004, the Citizen-Times and the Associated Press reported on Taylor presenting his U.S. and Russian businesses as the center of a “trade initiative” between this region and Ivanovo, Russia; then there was a mysterious switch to a Brevard “entrepreneurial school” that received $100,000 in taxpayer money this year. What’s the real story? The Moscow Times reports there was never any such trade initiative and there has never been anything further said of the promised and much-needed $2.5 million in trade. It’s difficult to see the Citizen-Times endorsing Taylor in 2006, especially considering U.S. Census data shows this area receives next to last in federal per capita spending, compounded with Taylor’s unusual style of ethics.
The thinking public does penetrate that all-too-familiar, yet seemingly universal Republican technique of “muddying the waters” by unloading explanations about what the other party is doing, and so forth and so on. ... We see that the genuine, necessary and moral mobilizations are about governance, poverty and climate change, not terrorism alone, and a mindless loyalty to corporate-based markets over genuine local needs.
I challenge citizens to call on their state and local elected officials to jump into the debate on the unfortunate direction our national government has taken. Washington is failing this community and we need to make a stand.
Grant Millin is president of Public Fuel Cell (www.publicfuelcell.org). He lives in Asheville.
Copyright 2005 Asheville Citizen-Times.